Work underway on the expansion of Switzerland County Elementary

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Preliminary site work has begun on the expansion of Switzerland County Elementary School in East Enterprise – work that is expected to be completed in time for students to move in on the first day of the 2013-2014 school year.

The expansion will include many upgrades to the 32-year old building, but will center on the construction of five additional classrooms on the end of the building. With those five new classrooms, the school board has approved a plan to keep the sixth grade students who have been attending SCES throughout their school years in that building for their sixth grade year.

For the past three years, all sixth graders in the county have gone to Jefferson-Craig Elementary School; and prior to that they were a part of Switzerland County Middle School since it was built.

Now, all elementary students will stay in the buildings that they started in until they go to the seventh grade. The middle school will continue to educate seventh and eighth graders, who then move on to the high school for their freshman year.

“They’ve broken ground, and now they are beginning the process of pouring the footers, but the rain set them back and few days on that,” Switzerland County Elementary School Principal Sally Weales said. “They’ve dug the trenches to connect the building to the new pod. They will be going in over Christmas break and hook up the water and electric and get that going.”

Prior to the beginning of the construction work, the road that circles the school and it used by school buses had to be moved on the west side to allow more room for the work, but Principal Weales says that is all going well.

“We have that all under control,” she said. “We’ve used to have the buses enter on the east side of the building to the back, where we loaded the students, and then exited on the west side. We can’t do that now, so we just had to make some changes to the bus procedures. They’re going great.”

Sally Weales said that currently all of the work that is being done has been outside, which had a minimal impact on the students as they finished up their first semester before starting their Christmas Break last Friday.

“It doesn’t seem to be impacting any learning or progress inside the building,” the Principal said. “I know that they watch out the windows where they can because the kids are interested, but it’s not taking away from instruction.”

The students have also been involved in the project’s design.

“In the plans there was a part that called for them to cut down a tree out there,” Sally Weales said. “The kids have actually taken a stand about saving it. They’ve written letters to the contractors and to the architects asking them to try and make accommodations and to not cut the tree down if it was at all possible. So that was really cute. That was a learning element for them, too, learning that sometimes even though you’re small, you can still make a big difference. That tree has been there since the building was built.”

Once the new pod is under roof, contractors will move inside for much of the winter season; and during Spring Break and the summer other inside improvements will be taking place, including a complete upgrade of the restroom facilities; upgrades to the lighting throughout the building; and the creation of a new, more secure way for visitors to enter into the building during the school day.

“We’re just trying to keep things as normal as possible for the kids,” Sally Weales said.

The project, which will cost just over $2 million, is being jointly funded by the school board and by the School Endowment Corporation.